Travelling to infinity through the ATS black hole

Written by on December 19, 2017

Before Interstellar, I thought black holes were a sudden emptiness in the sky. Like if someone had put a hole in the side of a balloon gently, letting out air and scattering it into the wide unknown. You never quite know where it is – it’s hidden somewhere, letting out the matter in the universe, and woe betide you, if you stumble upon it.

Black hole as seen in Interstellar. Physics…not my strong suit.

But the more I talk to the recruiters in Freshworks and elsewhere, the more I realize that the ATS (applicant tracking system) black hole is closer to my childhood imagination than Interstellar’s Gargantua. It doesn’t announce its presence by distorting time, space and gravity. It lurks in the belly of inefficient ATSes, releasing profiles into the expanse, unbeknownst to you.

What is an ATS black hole?

You archive profiles, thinking you’ll follow up with them sometime in the near future…and then, you never see it again. Perhaps, time steals your memory of the interaction or your ATS’ search just isn’t as powerful as you need it to be – for one reason or another, no matter how hard you look, you just can’t find the profile in your candidate database.

Is your a candidate database really a database if adding info is easy but retrieval is difficult? I’ve never looked for needles in a haystack but finding them might be easier because silver, pointy and you’re liable to get pricked.

This is, of course, different from the ATS black hole as referred to by frustrated candidates. When candidates refer to it, they’re talking about the mysterious screening processes, prevalent in popular applicant tracking systems, that have the power to delegate their resume to the ‘unqualified’ pile and prevent it from ever coming into a recruiter’s pipeline. That’s a separate problem altogether and one that isn’t common to all applicant tracking systems because not all ATSes have AI screening resumes for recruiters.

When a job opening closes, and an offer is made, what happens to the other candidates?

The way it works is, when a job opening closes, recruiters usually make note of the ones who almost received an offer for backup purposes (What if the chosen one doesn’t accept their offer?) Others would probably be archived out of the active candidate list to make sure no one spent time following up with candidates for a job posting that isn’t a priority anymore.

When a candidate applies for a job posting that isn’t open, where does their profile go?

Some applicant tracking systems conveniently provide for a snooze option so you can revisit the applicants in some time – 3 months or years down the line.

But I’ve always wondered how that helps; for the well-organized and prepared HR rep, perhaps the year’s hiring schedule is clearly laid out so they know that they need Carly’s profile six months from now and not seven. But what if you needed it sooner but couldn’t remember the name of the candidate?

If a candidate applies for a job but is an excellent prospect for another job, where does their profile go?

Some recruiters circumvent the ATS black hole through the use of spreadsheets. They maintain candidate lists with as many custom fields as their heart desires to make sure they’re easily findable. But this spreadsheet requires a person to manually update it every time and check for duplication.

What if it’s a referral that you want to pursue, just not now?

The most popular and enduring myth about black holes is that they could be portals to other dimensions. In a short story by Stephen King, a plane travels through a black hole into an alternate dissolving reality. If we could travel through the ATS black hole, we could literally end up in a talent pool, full of the ghosts of potential hires.

The ideal talent pool would be something that you can search easily and access at will. Something that might even be, dare I say it, intelligent enough to suggest profiles to you at the right time and place – when the job posting the candidate is best suited is being created?

Maybe even something like this?

What can you do make sure that the ATS black hole doesn’t affect your hiring process

  1. Choose an applicant tracking system that can resurface profiles just when and where you want them. An acceptable alternative is an applicant tracking system with good search capabilities and snooze.
  2. Make sure your recruiters follow protocol closely – if they don’t careful tag profiles, your ATS won’t be able to throw up the right candidates when you need them. They need to bake it into their approach.

That’s all folks! Thanks for tuning in. Tell us about your black hole experiences and how they’ve affected your hiring process.

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